Improving Student Learning and Achievement

Special Education Programs and Servi​ces

York Region District School Board has a strong tradition of fostering an inclusive, innovative and engagement-oriented community. York Region District School Board also recognizes the importance of setting high expectations and closing the gap for students with special education needs.

To achieve the Board of Trustees’ Multi-Year Strategic Plan priorities, the Director’s Action Plan sets out six goals that align with the strategic plan and the Board’s Mission, Vision and Values. In alignment with the concepts in the Ministry of Education’s Learning for All, the Director’s Action Plan goals focus on raising the achievement of students who are underserved and underperforming. When we focus on raising the achievement and well-being of students who are underserved and underperforming, all students benefit.

At York Region District School Board, Student Services is responsible for collaborating with all departments and stakeholders to ensure successful facilitation and implementation of:

  • a continuum of service delivery models responsive to pupil strengths and needs;

  • skilled resource staff who work in an interdisciplinary approach that supports the development of quality programs for exceptional pupils;

  • a tiered approach to prevention and intervention;

  • high-quality evidence-based assessment and personalized instruction;

  • intentional planning, instruction and differentiation; and,

  • inclusive and collaborative environments where all staff, students, parents and community members are engaged as partners.


2022-2023 School Year

In the 2022-2023 school year, Student Services focused on building capacity and creating a collective responsibility through:

  • Policy Updates

  • Programs and Resource Development

  • Professional Learning Opportunities, Support & Training

  • Collaborative Partnerships


Policy Updates

During the 2022-23 School year and in alignment with Board Policy 285.0 the following Policies and Procedures were reviewed and updated:


Programs and Resources

The Student Services Department develops a variety of programs to support student achievement and well-being.  Some of the programs offered during the 2022-2023 school year included:

  • After School Skills Development Program (virtual) for 175 students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with a focus on personalized social skill goal setting and skill building in collaboration with families and students.

  • PEERS (virtual) programs for 54 youth with ASD. This program included social skills training with a focus on student interest and preference to encourage lasting connections and to support the navigation of social situations.

  • ‘Hear, Say, Play!’ - an evidence based virtual program for 387 children entering SK and Grade 1 in July. Speech-language pathologists partnered with kindergarten educators to support the development of phonological awareness skills in fun, engaging and interactive ways.

  • A full credit summer school course - Leadership and Peer Support GPP301: Knowing Your Strengths to Design Your Future (designed for students with disabilities/ who self-identify with a disability). In partnership with the Continuing Education Department and community disability agencies (York University, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (HBKR)) the credit provides experiential learning opportunities to develop leadership and peer support skills. Throughout this course, students explored their own strengths, needs, advocacy skills and elements that contribute to disability positive identity formation and affirmation. 

  • A pilot project to design and develop a comprehensive YRDSB Transition Strategy that addresses the needs of students with disabilities and their families/caregivers from pre-Kindergarten entry through to Grade 12 and into post-secondary was completed with an interdepartmental working team, extensive community and stakeholder consultation was completed with over 269 individuals. Additional funding via MOE SEO allowed for post- secondary summer students to contribute to this project, focusing on student voice and lived experience. 

  • A high school ASL Transition Pilot Program for students using American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language at Alexander Mackenzie High School.

  • SEA and Robotics Pilot Program initiated to explore the use of robotics to access the Ontario Curriculum and/or alternative expectations as part of Special Education programming.

  • Youth S.P.A.C.E. (Students Promoting Awareness Connection and Empowerment) Student Advisory from Grades 9-12, during this pilot, a total of eight schools representing elementary and secondary schools participated in collaboration with York Region Public Health. The purpose of Youth S.P.A.C.E. is to co-create a network of care, centering on the voice and leadership of YRDSB students to help shape mental health supports and initiatives within York Region District School Board and the broader community.

  • An updated Parent/Guardian’s Guide to the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) Process.

  • Supporting the selection of accessible and appropriate reading materials for the YRDSB online digital library.

  • Development of the Student Mental Health and Addiction Strategy with the support of an interdepartmental committee. Informed by over 36 separate internal and community consultations with various partners.  The Strategy, which includes a monitoring framework, was launched in September 2022 with a comprehensive communication plan and tools, including a classroom learning action for Grades K-12+.


Professional Learning Opportunities

Special Education Training

Each year, the Student Services Team delivers professional development to all new SERTs (Special Education Resource Teachers) in elementary and secondary schools, as well as virtual Individual Education Plan (IEP) and SSNET drop-in sessions for all SERTs/teachers.

Additionally, during the 2022-2023 school year an additional 54 learning opportunities were offered to educators. Professional learning sessions were differentiated to meet the needs of educators, and included some of the following topics:

Assistive Technology

  • Online sessions to support elementary and secondary Educational Assistants and teachers with the use of Mindomo, Google Read&Write, EquatIO, Clicker, OrbitNote and Boardmaker
  • Learning on universal design for learning and the use of assistive technology

Autism (ASD)

  • Opportunities for school staff to support the planning and implementation of educational programs and strategies for students with Autism (ASD)

Mental Health and Addiction Strategy

  • Fall 2022 marked the introduction of the newly revised Student Mental Health and Addiction Strategy: a Holistic Approach to Mental Health, Within us Between us and Around us.  Mental Health staff, in collaboration with Student Services (Psychology and Social Work), as well as Inclusive School and Community Services (ISCS) and Indigenous Education staff, co-developed Board wide PA Day learning, Supporting Mental Health Through Identity Affirming Approaches (Oct. 21, 2022) exploring and understanding the newly revised YRDSB Student Mental Health and Addiction Strategy, as well as the oppressive Ideologies that impede mental health for students who are racialized and or marginalized.
  • The 2022-23 School Year welcomed the addition of the School Mental Health Liaison role to each school.  Supported by the central mental health team, these school staff members are tasked with supporting the actions of the student mental health and addiction strategy as well as supporting Mental Health Literacy.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) 2022-2023

  • Eight two day ASIST sessions were delivered, a total of 160 YRDSB staff participated in the training.

Speech-Language Pathology

  • Offered virtual Parent Articulation Workshops which focused on training families of students with mild articulation difficulties to work on speech at home. A total of 62 families attended.
  • Continued to deliver classroom based support to augment oral language through facilitated socio-dramatic play and phonological awareness through read-alouds and extension activities for students in Year 1 and Year 2 Kindergarten programs.

Occupational/Physical Therapy

  • Provided workshops in the areas of self-regulation, sensory processing, fine and gross motor development that support early literacy and school participation and engagement.
  • Partnered with the Early Years Team to provide workshops for Year 1 and Year 2 Kindergarten teachers on motor processing and co-regulation strategies.

Psychological Services

  • Psychological Services staff provided workshops for parents/guardians on multiple topics:
    • Coping with Covid
    • Anxiety
    • Managing Transitions in the Return to School.

Social Work

  • Provided sessions for Chinese heritage parents/guardians:
    • Effective Communication with Teenagers;
    • Case Scenarios: Managing Challenging Behaviours;
    • Empowering families to have conversations at home to address stereotypes related to our identities;
    • Helping Children Transitioning to a new environment;
    • Mental Health 101;
    • Family Dynamics & Mental Health.
  • Supported East Asian Youths Speak Program: Empowering YRDSB secondary students to construct a self-narrative that is inclusive of their multiple identities.

Mental Health groups co-facilitated by Psychological Services and Social Work included:

  • Presentation on Black Excellence and Mental Health and Well-Being - March 2022 virtual offering for parents of YRDSB students, and two offerings in February for students in elementary and secondary school.
  • Presentation for students on Racial Harassment and Bullying with TAIBU at three schools serving approximately 1,000 students.
  • School presentations, as requested by individual schools to support staff, including:
    • UBUNTU, Anti-Black Racism and Supporting Students
    • 2SLGBTQI+ identity, supports, and resources
  • PEAC symposium presentation on supporting 2SLGTBQI+ students May 2022
  • 2SLGBTQI+ 101: Understanding Identities and Challenging Assumptions for School Social Workers, Psychological Services and CRES partners March 2022
  • Trustee presentation on YRDSB Guidelines for Gender Identity and Expression, March 2022.


Collaborative Partnerships

In partnership with Curriculum and Instructional Services, Inclusive School and Community Services, Research and Assessment Services and our external community partners, Student Services collaborated to:

  • implement a Student Support Centre (SSC) Strategy with system learning on inclusive practices with system leaders, administrators, and educators to support their understanding of the disparate impacts of the SSC Structure.
  • build capacity in Year 1, Year 2 and Grade 1 educators around phonics, phonemic awareness, early literacy development and embedding printing within the structures of the classroom to build foundational literacy skills. The Regional Itinerant Primary Literacy Team consisted of a SERT, teacher, Speech-Language Pathologist, Psycho-Educational Consultant and Occupational and Physical Therapists.
  • develop an interdepartmental working group to address disability and ableism; creating Disability Justice & Anti Ableism training for the system.
  • develop and formalize a new CRES (Collaborative Relationships with External Services) Partnership agreement with:
    • Noojimo Mental Healthy: offering culturally relevant and safe mental health counseling for students who identify as FNMI and Metis.
    • Hope House Hospice: offering grief and bereavement counseling from Grade 2 - 12.
  • support sessions for new teachers of students with special education needs alongside consultants responsible for the New Teacher’s Induction Program (NTIP).
  • foster a strong working relationship to support the successful entry of children into Year 1 and Year 2 Kindergarten and co-hosted an Early Intervention Orientation Evening session with our Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) partner Early Intervention Services (EIS).
  • maintain membership within the York Community Autism Partnership (formerly the York ASD Partnership), working collaboratively with agency partners and community members to align services for children and adults with Autism in York Region.
  • collaborate with community agencies across York Region on the York FASD Steering Committee.
  • support Student Services staff in participating on the York FASD Community of Practice.
  • partner between Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services and community agencies to support preschool students with hearing loss (ages 2-4).
  • engage external agencies (including Provincial Demonstration Schools) to support Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services' continued access to American Sign Language and Deaf Culture with Deaf adult role models.


Updated January 2024